QUESTION: How will people vote in this election? On Local or national issues? Listen:
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Listen to my response to questions on jobs for young people and should 16 and 17 year olds be allowed to vote:
We are living in the age of the Terrorism of Things (ToT) where the perpetrators of terror weaponise ordinary, everyday objects to kill, maim and instil fear into the general population. A truck in Nice. A machete in Charleroi. Petrol bombs in Paris. Fires in national forests. A knife in Russell Square. How do we respond as civilians to this type of violence as we go about our everyday business?
I ask this question because in 2012 I wrote a Ballsy Thinking piece entitled (see here) “ROI Terrorism, a Smouldering Issue” which posited that smart terrorists don’t need to go for massive spectaculars to get the scary media coverage that they crave. They can attack weak parts of our national life and infrastructure and get a much better ‘terror return’ on their efforts. Whether because of the great work of our security services or an inability to organise it does seem that our terrorist foes have decided to adopt a variant of this approach – the “Terrorism of Things”. In fact, yesterday's Sunday Times informs us that "ISIS has called on supporters 'behind enemy lines' in Britain to embark on a wave of spontaneous attacks that the authorities will struggle to spot in advance." (see full article below)
As a former soldier who fought terrorism (photo above) I carried a gun and went into certain areas to patrol British streets expecting to be attacked in any manner of ways. Today, I do not travel to London or to other western cities or towns expecting to be attacked but I am at least conscious of the possibility. Here is my personal strategy for being ready for the Terrorism of Things:
1. Be aware of your surroundings. I am as bad as anyone at having my head in a screen but I watch who gets on the tube at every stop when I’m underground and check out my surroundings before I sit down at a restaurant. A few years ago I would have added as a separate point here “assess the likelihood of your location as a target”. Are you in a government owned or militarily connected building for example. However, importantly, in the age of ToT anywhere can be a target. Just ask those enjoying the promenade in Nice.
2. Plan your escape routes. I’m sure you’d be surprised to learn that I am probably not as fit as I used to be in my days as a soldier on counter-terrorism duty. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the same instincts. No soldier likes to get caught without having options and neither should you when you are going about your business in cities or towns. If you stay in a hotel know where the fire escapes are. If you are in a restaurant spy the exits (don’t forget a way out through kitchen - it saved punters during the recent Islamist attack in Bangladesh). Remember how many terrorist incidents you see where people have got out of the area of immediate danger and hidden somewhere (think the Tunisia beach attack where local shopkeepers took people in). Get away but if you are not sure of the area, go hide.
3. Think about what objects that you can weaponise. Look around you right now. What can you use to get back at your attackers if you are trapped and cannot run away. First what can you throw at them to keep them back if they are not carrying firearms. Second, how can you hurt them in a close quarter struggle. Bog standard glasses are good things to throw – the heavier the better (bring back smoking as ash trays were heavy and tailor made for this purpose). If your attacker is advancing on you, knives, forks, bottles (especially those with long necks) make good weapons. Even a rolled up magazine or Sunday supplement can cause damage (stab rather than swing). In short, turn back a ToT attack if you can by using the same principles against an attacker.
I am fortunate to be connected through LinkedIn with some of the best minds combating terrorism. I’m not sure how many would endorse the content of this article. What I can endorse however, is the attitude that no matter how young or old you are, if your luck runs out (and let’s face it the chances of you being caught up in a ToT attack are very, very low) and you can’t get away, go down fighting. If as many people as possible do this, we can decrease the return on investment from Terrorism of Things attacks that our enemies hope to accrue and increase deterrence. That's got to be a good thing.
From the Sunday Times 9 August 2016
Four weeks after the #EURef BBC News 24 stopped by Watford's market to gauge peoples' reaction to the result and to ask about the government's future negotiating strategy...I just happened to be passing!
A week ago I blogged on my key experiences of campaigning for #VoteLeave in Watford a barometer voting district in the UK bordering London. See "Gary Ling: If Watford #Brexits, Britain Exits" from Wed 22 June 2016 here. How do the key points in last week's analysis stand up post #Brexit? What is the Conventional Wisdom (CW) today:
Prediction for Watford Result: A week ago I wrote: “It will be very, very close. I’m calling the result in Watford District as 51:49 for Leave on the day. If I’m right Britain is headed out of the EU…”.
CW Now: Total Votes Cast: 46,635. LEAVE 23,419 (50.2%) – REMAIN 23,167 (49.6%). LEAVE majority 252. Turnout 71.69%
++Key Experience 1. A week ago I wrote: “The Remainians have been trying to turn the tide on the effectiveness of the views of so-called ‘Experts’… The extent to which they are successful in this as the campaign ends will determine the outcome.”
CW Today: Clear that Government overplayed its hand when it controlled state communication machinery before the Purdah period. Vote Leave side was successfully able to make #ProjectFear tag stick all the way to the end.
++Key Experience 2. A week ago I wrote: "In fact, as a digital strategist I regret to say that social media buzz is a side show or an irrelevance to many working people."
CW Today: Got a lot of criticism from friends particularly those who do social media for FMCG about this comment. Admit it was too sweeping. Of course, young people are influenced by social media. But a lot of people I met who normally never vote but said they would in this plebiscite were not, in my opinion, heavy SM consumers.
++Key Experience 3. A week ago I wrote: "Since Watford is one of the most densely populated and diverse Districts outside of inner-City London, immigration is an important issue here."
CW Today: This important point still stands. Like many, I want to see an Australian-style points based system for UK immigration. If our EU trading partners don’t understand that we don’t accept the Free Movement of People principle, then both sides need to be prepared for tariffs on trade which will hurt European industry more than us in nominal terms (because we have a whopping trade deficit with them) but is counter intuitive, regrettable and will be a petulant move by the EU. Think this is unlikely but... Bottom Line: Free Movement of People must go.
++Key Experience 4. A week ago I wrote: "From the start it was obvious that there was strong support for Brexit in the Asian community in Watford."
CW Today: Stand by this as it is doubtful Leave would have won here without Asian support. Though whether a majority of this Watford community voted Leave is hard to tell.
++Key Experience 5. A week ago I wrote: "[The]…motivation of this [Young People] demographic to actually turn out and choose in this (to them) complex debate is questionable."
CW Today: ‘Nuff said:
++Key Experience 6. A week ago I wrote: "The determination of those who will definitely @Vote_Leave is remarkable. A plague of locusts could descend on Watford District tomorrow and Leave voters will fight their way through to the polling station. Thunderstorms are predicted Referendum day in this Town. Will that make even a marginal difference?"
CW Today: Thunderstorms afflicted Watford Voting District all afternoon on Referendum Day. When you win a campaign by 252 votes in a contest of tens of thousands the degree to which your supporters are motivated makes all the difference. So did the weather in Watford.
++Key Experience 7. A week ago I wrote: "Remain or Leave this event in Watford and nationally will have some serious structural implications for UK politics in terms of the futures of all the main political parties."
CW Today: Watch the news!
++Key 8. A week ago I wrote: "I have been involved in politics for many years and the people who say they ‘Don’t Care’ about voting this time around is the lowest I have ever seen in any plebiscite in my adult life… more people are thinking about the issues at least than for any campaign I have experienced including general elections."
CW Today: Record turnout. People who normally opt out of voting in party political elections made a critical difference in Watford. Despite what all the talking heads in the Westminster bubble and on TV tell us this really was a great exercise in democracy. People were discussing #EURef issues in the streets, in their homes, in places of work. Amazing. Those who say that people weren’t informed are dead wrong. I can’t think of an issue in my lifetime that got more public discussion. Hell, we went to War in Iraq with less public discussion. The worse criticism is those who say that the general public is too stupid to decide such things. This is woefully patronising and ridiculous. And Yes, I would have said this if the Remainians had won. Although I admit it would have been easier for the Leave side to accept the result since the European Union as a political project would have been doomed regardless of the result of UK #EURef. Brexit has given those countries in the East a chance to speak up against ever closer Union and take on the French-German Closer Union Axis.
Final Big Learning For Me: Think you can understand the mood of the British people by sitting on your backside and viewing things through the Internet and accepting a lot of the pap that the global corporatist mass media outlets pump out? Forget it. On important decisions, particularly binary existential ones like the #EURef, hitting the streets and discussing things with people from all walks of life who you live with in your community can't be beat!
Click here to read Gary’s article on “Why UK Watford is one of the most industrious places on earth”
Distressing to see the claim of how racism and bigotry was a driving force behind a win for #Leave supporters in the EU Referendum. Of course, in their dismay that they lost a hard fought democratic campaign, the Remainians are quite entitled to link those who voted Leave to the isolationist ignorance and hate that has always existed amongst the scummier parts of our society. But the hundreds of Leavers I know voted that way for many good reasons – most of them to do with wanting an Outward Looking, Global Trading Britain. None of them based on racism and bigotry.
Interesting too that those who shout “racism, bigotry” use this UKIP poster as a way to illustrate their understanding of this phenomenon. In fact, the poster illustrates the result of Mrs Merkel’s disastrous open door asylum policy last summer and the fact that many of these refugee asylum seekers seen crossing through Croatia will have Free Movement of People (FMP) access to Britain over the next decade unless the UK changes our current migration arrangements with the bloc and opts out of its FMP Treaty obligations as a part of the Brexit renegotiation. This is the mandate that the Government has after the Referendum result.
The British people had the right to know the effects of Mrs Merkel’s unilateral decision during the Referendum campaign and this poster reflects this. Last year Germany accept roughly 1.1 million asylum seekers. German authorities have lost track of appx 100,000 of these which is surely a matter of concern given the present security situation across Europe. Under EU rules the remaining will have FMP rights after, on average five years, if they seek permanent residency from the date of being accepted for asylum depending on the EU country in which they were accepted.
There is nothing ‘racist of bigoted’ in pointing out that potentially some of these people will want to head to Britain if present trends are anything to go by. Evidence suggests that it is highly likely that a proportion of the 100,000 who the German authorities have lost track off are already trying to get to Britain illegally through French and Belgian ports. As Keynes is purported to have said: In the short run economics is all about incentives. In the Long run its about demography. Mass, uncontrolled, unplanned, unskilled immigration into Britain compresses wage incentives for those at the bottom rung of the ladder to work – that’s why so many end up on 'Benefits Street'. It also compresses ‘long run’ demographic economic trends which means that the UK economy faces housing shortages, lack of school places and an NHS at bursting point.
Of course, an elected British government may decide to accept all people like those shown in the poster in addition to the 20,000 Syrians the UK is plucking from refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey over the course of this parliament at a cost of £2 billion and the 30,000+ people who are granted asylum EVERY year in the UK.The British people may well vote for a government that proposes a migration policy where the UK welcomes more that the current 336,000 net migrants a year. But this should be explicitly spelled out and the people given that choice. It should not be influenced by unilateral decisions made by the German Chancellor.
As the United Kingdom’s EU Referendum campaign comes to a close, here are 8 key takeaways from my 10 week part-time participation for the Leave side in the Hertfordshire town of Watford, one of 201 non-Metropolitan Districts in England that will declare a result 0330-0400hrs Friday morning.
Key 1. Even taking into account that the Remain side had the huge advantage of the government’s communications machine going for them, the national Leave campaign got off to a poor start back in mid-April when the @Vote_Leave organisation was officially designated. Crucially however, one thing that really struck home with the Watford public was the #ProjectFear story line. From my first weekend on the Leave stall in the Town Centre, ‘Government’s #Scaremongering’ was something that people mentioned to me right off the bat. Of course, this will only prove to have been amazingly effective if the District scores for Brexit. The Remainians have been trying to turn the tide on the effectiveness of the views of so-called ‘Experts’ ever since. The extent to which they are successful in this as the campaign ends will determine the outcome.
Key 2. Ten weeks of street stall conversations with random shoppers around the District does not a proper market research project make. Yet, my assumptions of the effects of ‘significant events’ amplified by social media on people’s choice in this Referendum were changed by my on-street interactions. I was concerned that President Obama’s intervention in Week 3 was going to have a negative impact on Leave. On the contrary, the street reaction that weekend was broadly that he should ‘keep his nose’ out. This was a surprise to me as was general anti-US feeling. Similarly, the brutal and tragic assassination of Jo Cox does not seem to have been a major topic on the streets these past two days despite social media frenzy. In fact, as a digital strategist I regret to say that social media buzz is a side show or an irrelevance to many working people.
Key 3. Since Watford is one of the most densely populated and diverse Districts outside of inner-City London, immigration is an important issue here. Many people walking past the Leave stall are eastern European immigrants who cannot Vote in this Referendum but whose increasing choice of Watford as a place to settle has influenced the decisions of people who can vote. Unquestionably the arrival of these new residents puts Watford’s public schools, hospital and local GP surgeries under pressure and drives up Leave vote pledges.
Key 4. From the start it was obvious that there was strong support for Brexit in the Asian community in Watford. Many mentioned to me the discriminatory nature of the EU’s free movement of people rules that allow EU citizens to enter the UK without visas while citizens from Commonwealth countries have to go through a harder, more restrictive visa process. Interestingly, the Mosques in Watford don’t seem to be putting out an ‘informal’ line on how to vote in this Referendum as far as I can tell from speaking to Muslims on the High Street. That’s significant.
Key 5. Many young peoples’ support for Remain is superficial at best. Those who stopped and spoke to us at the Leave stall asking questions left, in most cases, thinking seriously whether the celebrity fronted arguments pushed by the Remain side were as solid as they first thought. In any case the motivation of this demographic to actually turn out and choose in this (to them) complex debate is questionable.
Key 6. The determination of those who will definitely @Vote_Leave is remarkable. A plague of locusts could descend on Watford District tomorrow and Leave voters will fight their way through to the polling station. Many weekends, the Leave stall was almost side by side with a Remain one flying the EU flag. Can’t say I saw much enthusiasm for the symbolism of the stars on blue in Watford. I have no doubt there is a solid and substantial Remain vote in Watford. Obviously, who turns out to vote on the day is critical. Thunderstorms are predicted Referendum day in this Town. Will that make even a marginal difference? Studies of weather affecting election outcomes say not.
Key 7. Remain or Leave this event in Watford and nationally will have some serious structural implications for UK politics in terms of the futures of all the main political parties. Many mainstream UK parties were split on the EU issue - some more publicly than others. I met some great people from across the political spectrum in this campaign and it’s the first time I have ever delivered a political leaflet with a ‘Green’ message!
Key 8. I have been involved in politics for many years and the people who say they ‘Don’t Care’ about voting this time around is the lowest I have ever seen in any plebiscite in my adult life. This maybe because it’s a simple binary decision which people who have a great disdain for party politics can engage in. I don’t go so far as to say we’ll see a whole bunch of Jehovah’s Witnesses turning up at the polls but, generally speaking, more people are thinking about the issues at least than for any campaign I have experienced including general elections.
Prediction: The conventional psephologist wisdom is that the closer to London a voter is the more likely they are to vote Remain. Watford borders Greater London and is often touted as the ‘Gateway to the North’. It is a barometer parliamentary seat and has voted for the party of government in every general election since 1974. After 10 weeks involved in the #EURef campaign here I can say with some certainty that things are very, very close as of today. The Remain camp need a larger margin here if they are to avoid Brexit as results sweep into London proper. Putting aside all my inbuilt bias as best I can, I’m calling the result in Watford District as 51:49 for Leave on the day. If I’m right Britain is headed out of the EU and into an Outward Looking, Global Trading future as an independent nation state.
Click here to read Gary’s article on “Why UK Watford is one of the most industrious places on earth”
Over the past few years individuals from the so-called ‘millennial generation’ have been crashing into my workspace. Most researchers use this term to describe those who were born in the early eighties through the early noughties so the development of the Internet has had profound effects on this group. This piece of Ballsy Thinking describes some of my experiences of working and munching lunch with the millennials. [Full disclosure: I am also responsible for procreating two millennials, both now at Russell Group universities]
At this stage of my working life it’s time to acknowledge that I am not a particularly socially observant person. If I had recognised this earlier perhaps I should have used it to answer the interview question: “Tell me about your weaknesses”. Since I have
always worked in the creative aspects of the digital IT marketing space, the struggle for women’s equality and Gay rights pretty much passed me by. From my first job out of university as a rookie IT consultant with Arthur Andersen (now Accenture) powerful women were just part of my working life. I appreciate or resent women in the workplace as much as I do a man whether they are straight or Gay and, honestly, I can rarely tell the difference.
For example, Gretchen if your reading this I’m still pissed off with you when three weeks out of college you made me stay up all night at that Chicago training centre trying to spot the mistake in my brilliant COBOL computer code when it was a simple spelling error (I was using ‘centre’ the English way rather than the American one) that prevented that code from compiling. You should have told me! As for understanding prejudice against homosexuals, it just never occurred to me to think this was a big issue until I worked on two corporate magazines called TEMPUS and Managing Today in 1990s. Outside the Islington flat of the brilliant Gay contracted editor there was a colourful striped flag hanging which to my shame for the first six months I thought was that of Jamaica, until I asked him about its significance. In short, I work in markets which are always judging outputs and performance and accepting of equality, new ideas and change. So am I. (There you go; this was the answer I should have given to the “What are your strengths?” interview question).
With this in mind, the first thing to say about the impact of the millennials on modern working life is that you don’t have to be socially observant to notice them. Their workplace behaviour is jarring to the ordered mind. It’s interesting to me that if you research the effect of millennials on the workplace one of the things that seems to come up in their favour is that they are ‘sharers’ and want to be ‘included early on in projects’ by being ‘engaged’. In my experience this is most definitely true.
The millennials I’ve worked with in a variety of organisations want to be engaged but on their terms. They want to be themselves and be respected for who they are without having to give too much up in terms of conforming to what might be conventional office norms. I run digital strategy workshops and have a gentle policy of sterilising the workshop environment of clothes, phones and bags that may interfere with people movement if participants have to get up to do some white boarding. At one recent workshop a millennial brought in a huge tub of smelly soup and a baguette (with the accompanying baggage of utensils and paper bags) from Pret. He fully intended to munch his lunch as I kicked things off. When questioned about this he simply stated that this was “just what he did” and that "he was hungry.” This is the first characteristic in a nutshell that strikes you about millennials: the ‘I need to be me and I need to be satisfied’ thingy.
If you have read this far, then you are likely not a millennial as in my experience most millennials have trouble reading anything of value over 500 words. That’s why all blog based start-ups with them in mind have snippets of information rather than articles of informative substance. The creators of millennial content know their audience since they also increasingly note how long it takes to read a written piece (almost always less than a minute). In fact, a recent press report stated that university professors in the UK say that millennial students can’t cope with reading a book cover to cover.
At his point as a non-millennial you will expect me to mention the amount of time that millennials spend with their face in a screen. Since I’m a digital warrior, it would be hypocritical if this bothered me except with millennials it seems to have the consequential effect that it can hamper real life human communications in a commercial environment. Particularly if there is a chance of them being rejected in some way. Perhaps today’s businesses need to follow the lead of US and UK universities where I’m told it is now common to have ‘safe zones’ where people are neither rejected nor challenged.
More seriously, fear of even mild rejection has commercial consequences. I recently helped organise the Exhibition stand at a conference in the US where one of the devious plans I hatched to drive traffic to our stand was to hand out the superb leaflet that I devised promoting my clients ideas to the hundreds of people waiting to get through security and into the adjoining conference. Exhibition marketing 101, except getting millennial help with this was near impossible. The immortal words of one response to my request still rings in my ears: “They won’t be interested! They may throw them back at me!” Which of course begs the question; if you think this why did you bother getting on the plane and flying over with us to staff the exhibition stand in the first place? This was not an exercise in virtual reality!
Many of my peers describe millennials as self-centred, self-absorbed, self-obsessed. Is this right? As a self-confessed not very socially observant person what I do know other than thinking that generalising is very dangerous and that any one of these terms does it for me. Today’s UK millennials face increasing competition for jobs in the workplace from millennials in other countries and from innovative automation. There has never been a time when understanding where you fit in as an individual and can ADD VALUE is more important to making a commercial living. It may be as one of my colleagues said when assessing the historical value of millennials: “We’ll only find out their real value when we're hit by the next really big financial crisis or when the next war comes along.” On reflection, how a generation responds to crises has been the benchmark for evaluating their true value since the ‘Greatest Generation’ defeated fascism in WWII. The historical mark of that Generation in facing down an existential threat is assured and they didn’t even have the benefit of recording it all in Selfies! So watch this space. Hope lives eternal.
The #FXrigging scandal has resulted in yet another ‘Regulator Raid’ on global financial services. This time, with the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma), joining the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, (OCC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in grabbing cash that goes to national treasuries.
The nub of the story is that various nefarious groups within a consortium of banks sought to peg the 4PM London foreign currency (FX) Fix for their own purposes by collecting up customer orders to be put through around this designated time traditionally chosen as a currency mark for many global commercial contracts. As a home based FX trader, it is clear to me that the reaction of regulators and financial commentators to this shows just how messed up the regulation of the global financial system has become.
On the one hand, fining banks for misconduct and also increasing their capital ratios (the money they need to keep on hand to cover withdrawals, bad loans etc.), while drowning them in essentially 'free' Quantitative Expansion (QE) money and exhortations to lend more on the other, is sheer public policy madness. It’s contract-expand, get the bastard financiers, hypocrisy of the worst sort. A key question of this event is why, when even the simplest (retail web-based!) FX trading systems will show spikes caused by batched, volume or rigged 4PM trades surrounding the around the FX fix, were these market distortions not spotted earlier?
It seems strange that regulators can track and highlight suspicious insider equity trades down to the nearest 10,000 bucks in real time but neither they nor the bank's compliance teams spotted volume FX trades that nudged the 4PM fix in favour of vested interests. As a home-based, retail, FX trader myself these were obvious to me on several occasions during the last decade – although the 4PM fix was generally in of itself materially inconsequential to currency gains or loses on my own account. [NB: however, I am pretty sure that some trading stops I put in were blown out by these concentrated FX batched orders.]
In short, there is much more to this sorry episode than meets the eye, at first glance. At the very least regulators should be gunning for criminal INDIVIDUAL participants not weakening key INSTITUTIONS essential to the healthy future of the world's economy. So watch this space.
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